Publication number | US7451665 B2 |

Publication type | Grant |

Application number | US 11/668,246 |

Publication date | Nov 18, 2008 |

Filing date | Jan 29, 2007 |

Priority date | Jan 30, 2006 |

Fee status | Paid |

Also published as | CN101013139A, CN101013139B, EP1813950A1, EP1813950B1, US20070175284 |

Publication number | 11668246, 668246, US 7451665 B2, US 7451665B2, US-B2-7451665, US7451665 B2, US7451665B2 |

Inventors | Takehiko Oonuma, Hiroko TAKAYAMA |

Original Assignee | Kabushiki Kaisha Toshiba, Toshiba Medical Systems Corporation |

Export Citation | BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan |

Patent Citations (10), Classifications (6), Legal Events (2) | |

External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet | |

US 7451665 B2

Abstract

A specimen is sequentially sampled by a probe, and at least one of the number of times of cleaning and a cleaning time when cleaning the probe is changed based on at least one of the number of times of sampling of the specimen by the probe and a sampling amount of the specimen.

Claims(9)

1. An autoanalyzer comprising:

a probe that samples a specimen;

an analysis unit that analyzes the specimen sampled by the probe;

a cleaning mechanism that cleans the probe; and

a probe cleaning change section that changes at least one of the number of times of cleaning and a cleaning time of the probe by the cleaning mechanism based on at least one of the number of times of sampling of the specimen and a sampling amount of the specimen by the probe, wherein

the probe cleaning change section has a preset number of times of sampling, and adds cleaning of the probe when the number of times of sampling exceeds the set number of times of sampling or when the total number of times of sampling including the next sampling exceeds the set number of times of sampling.

2. An autoanalyzer comprising:

a probe that samples a specimen;

an analysis unit that analyzes the specimen sampled by the probe;

a cleaning mechanism that cleans the probe; and

a probe cleaning change section that changes at least one of the number of times of cleaning and a cleaning time of the probe by the cleaning mechanism based on at least one of the number of times of sampling of the specimen and a sampling amount of the specimen by the probe, wherein

the probe cleaning change section has a preset sampling integration amount, and adds cleaning of the probe when the sampling integration amount exceeds the set sampling integration amount or when the total sampling integration amount including a sampling amount in the next sampling exceeds the set sampling integration amount.

3. An autoanalyzer comprising:

a probe that samples a specimen;

an analysis unit that analyzes the specimen sampled by the probe;

a cleaning mechanism that cleans the probe; and

a probe cleaning change section that changes at least one of the number of times of cleaning and a cleaning time of the probe by the cleaning mechanism based on at least one of the number of times of sampling of the specimen and a sampling amount of the specimen by the probe, wherein

the probe cleaning change section has a preset number of times of sampling and a preset sampling integration amount, and adds cleaning of the probe when one or both a case where the number of times of sampling exceeds the set number of times of sampling and a case where the total number of times of sampling including the next sampling exceeds the set number of times of sampling are achieved and when one or both a case where the sampling integration amount exceeds the set sampling integration amount and a case where the total sampling integration amount including a sampling amount in the next sampling exceeds the set sampling integration amount are achieved.

4. The autoanalyzer according to claims 1 , 2 , or 3 , wherein sampling the specimen by the probe and cleaning the probe are operations in one cycle, the cycle being repeated for a plurality of number of times, and the probe cleaning change section performs cleaning of the probe alone without executing sampling of the specimen by the probe in the next cycle when addition of the cleaning is determined.

5. The autoanalyzer according to claim 4 , wherein the probe cleaning change section performs cleaning of the probe alone without executing sampling of the specimen by the probe in the plurality of continuous cycles including the next cycle.

6. The autoanalyzer according to claim 4 , wherein the probe cleaning change section prolongs a time required for cleaning the probe in the next cycle.

7. The autoanalyzer according to claims 1 , 2 , or 3 , further comprising:

a plurality of specimen containers that respectively accommodate the plurality of different specimens; and

a plurality of reaction containers into which the respective specimens are poured,

wherein the probe repeats an operation as one cycle more than once, the operation including sampling the specimen accommodated in one of the respective specimen containers, then discharging the sampled specimen into one of the respective reaction containers, and being cleaned by the cleaning mechanism, and the probe cleaning change section performs cleaning of the probe alone without executing sampling of the specimen in the next cycle when addition of the cleaning is determined.

8. The autoanalyzer according to claims 1 , 2 , or 3 , further comprising:

one specimen container that accommodates the specimen; and

a plurality of reaction containers into which the specimen is divided and poured,

wherein the probe repeats an operation as one cycle more than once, divides and pours the specimen accommodated in the specimen container into the plurality of reaction containers, and is then cleaned by the cleaning mechanism after divided pouring of the specimen into the reaction containers in a cycle having a predetermined cycle number when the number of times of repetition of the cycle reaches the predetermined cycle number, the operation including sampling the specimen accommodated in the specimen container and discharging the sampled specimen into one of the respective reaction containers, and

the probe cleaning change section performs cleaning of the probe alone without executing sampling of the specimen in a cycle following the cycle having the predetermined cycle number when effecting addition of the cleaning.

9. The autoanalyzer according to claim 8 ,

wherein the probe cleaning change section performs weighting in accordance with each sampling amount with respect to the plurality of reaction containers, uses each weighted sampling amount to obtain a sampling integration amount of the specimen, and executes the additional cleaning when the sampling integration amount exceeds a preset sampling integration amount.

Description

This application is based upon and claims the benefit of priority from prior Japanese Patent Application No. 2006-021272, filed Jan. 30, 2006, the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to an improvement in an autoanalyzer that samples a specimen by using a probe to perform biochemical analysis and immunological analysis with respect to the specimen, and in a probe cleaning method of cleaning the probe used in the autoanalyzer.

2. Description of the Related Art

An autoanalyzer is provided in, e.g., hospitals. The autoanalyzer analyzes a specimen, e.g., blood or urine in accordance with each inspection item. The autoanalyzer is constituted by coupling a biochemical analysis unit that performs biochemical analysis with respect to a specimen and an immunological analysis unit that carries out immunological analysis. The autoanalyzer accommodates a specimen in a specimen container, and carries this specimen container between the biochemical analysis unit and the immunological analysis unit by using a carriage system.

A reaction tube is provided in each of the biochemical analysis unit and the immunological analysis unit. The reaction tube is carried by the carriage system. When the reaction tube is carried to the biochemical analysis unit or the immunological analysis unit, the specimen in the specimen container is divided and poured into the reaction tube in each of the biochemical analysis unit and the immunological analysis unit. Divided pouring is carried out by each sampling mechanism provided in each of the biochemical analysis unit and the immunological analysis unit. Each sampling mechanism is constituted by, e.g., providing a sampling probe to a sampling arm. The sampling mechanism immerses the sampling probe in the specimen in the specimen container by driving the sampling arm, sucks the specimen in the specimen container by the sampling probe, moves the sampling probe into the reaction tube, and discharges the specimen into the reaction tube from the sampling probe.

The autoanalyzer sequentially carries the plurality of specimen containers accommodating different specimens therein to the biochemical analysis unit and the immunological analysis unit to divide and pour the specimens into the respective reaction tubes. Therefore, as shown in

As a technology concerning cleaning the sampling probe, there is one disclosed in, e.g., Jpn. Pat. Appln. KOKAI Publication No. 2004-251797. Jpn. Pat. Appln. KOKAI Publication No. 2004-251797 discloses forming an opening, from which a cleaning liquid is discharged, to include a region where the cleaning liquid discharged toward an outer wall of a sampling probe placed in a cleaned state is immersed in a specimen.

The biochemical analysis unit and the immunological analysis unit have a considerable difference in measurement sensitivity with respect to a specimen. The sensitivity of the immunological analysis unit is higher than that of the biochemical analysis unit. As a result, the biochemical analysis unit does not require high performance in relation to carry-over between specimens. Even if there is carry-over between the previous specimen and the next specimen, the biochemical analysis unit does not affect an analysis result.

On the other hand, the immunological analysis unit requires high performance concerning carry-over between specimens. Therefore, if there is carry-over between the previous specimen and the next specimen, an error in an analysis result occurs in the immunological analysis unit.

Carry-over between specimens is also dependent on a degree of contamination of a sampling probe, conditions under which a specimen is sampled, and others. Therefore, in the existing circumstances, it is difficult to keep the performance requiring the carry-out performance between specimens under all conditions.

It has been confirmed from experiments that the carry-over between specimens vary depending on sampling conditions due to the following tendency. When the number of times of sampling is increased, the carry-over between specimens is also increased. An increase in the number of times of sampling and an increase in the carry-over do not necessarily have a proportionality relation. The carry-over between specimens is increased in accordance with an integration amount of specimens to be sucked by a sampling probe. Here, the integration amount of specimens is a sum total of sampling amounts of all specimens including a dummy and sampling amounts of the first sampling to the nth sampling, for example.

A maximum number of times of sampling in the autoanalyzer exceeds 100 times because of specifications. A sampling probe may suck and discharge a specimen having a sampling amount of, e.g., 35 μL because of its specifications. In such sampling, even if the number of times of sampling is the same as that of sampling having an average sampling amount, e.g., approximately 4 μL, the carry-over between specimens becomes large.

Under two types of sampling conditions, i.e., the number of times of sampling and a sampling amount, a value of the carry-over between specimens required under maximum conditions in specifications is, e.g., 0.1 ppm or below. However, it is difficult to set the value of the carry-over to, e.g., 0.1 ppm or below.

It is an object of the present invention to provide an autoanalyzer that can assure performance requiring carry-over between specimens even if the number of times of sampling or a sampling integration amount of the specimens is increased, and a probe cleaning method.

According to a first aspect of the present invention, there is provided an autoanalyzer comprising: a probe that samples a specimen; an analysis unit that analyzes the specimen sampled by the probe; a cleaning mechanism that cleans the probe; and

a probe cleaning change section that changes at least one of the number of times of cleaning and a cleaning time of the probe by the cleaning mechanism based on at least one of the number of times of sampling of the specimen and a sampling amount of the specimen by the probe.

According to a second aspect of the present invention, there is provided a probe cleaning method comprising: sequentially sampling a specimen by a probe; and changing at least one of the number of times of cleaning and a cleaning time when cleaning the probe based on at least one of the number of times of sampling of the specimen by the probe and a sampling amount of the specimen.

A first embodiment according to the present invention will now be explained hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings.

**1** with an immunological analysis unit **2** and providing a carriage unit **3** between the biochemical analysis unit **1** and the immunological analysis unit **2**. The carriage unit **3** carries a plurality of specimen containers **5** accommodating each specimen **4**, e.g., a blood serum or urine therein from the biochemical analysis unit **1** to the immunological analysis unit **2** in a direction indicated by arrows A. The respective specimens **4** accommodated in the respective specimen containers **5** are taken from different patients.

A sampling mechanism **6** *a *is provided in the biochemical analysis unit **1**. The sampling mechanism **6** *a *divides and pours the specimen **4** accommodated in the specimen container **5** into the biochemical analysis unit **1**. Specifically, the sampling mechanism **6** *a *is constituted by providing a sampling probe **8** *a *at a distal end of a sampling arm **7** *a*. A reaction container **9** *a *is provided in the biochemical analysis unit **1**.

The sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves the sampling arm **7** *a *to a position above the specimen container **5**, moves down the sampling probe **8** *a *to be immersed in the specimen **4** in the specimen container **5**, sucks the specimen **4**, moves up the sampling probe **8** *a*, moves the sampling probe **8** *a *to a position above the reaction container **9** *a*, and moves down the sampling probe **8** *a *to discharge the specimen **4** into the reaction container **9** *a*. The biochemical analysis unit **1** performs biochemical analysis of the specimen **4** divided and poured into the reaction container **9** *a. *

A sampling mechanism **6** *b *is provided in the immunological analysis unit **2**. The sampling mechanism **6** *b *divides and pours the specimen **4** accommodated in the specimen container **5** into the immunological analysis unit **4**. Specifically, the sampling mechanism **6** *b *is constituted by providing a sampling probe **8** *b *at a distal end of a sampling arm **7** *b*. A reaction container **9** *b *is provided in the immunological analysis unit **2**. The sampling mechanism **6** *b *moves the sampling arm **7** *b *to a position above the specimen container **5**, moves down the sampling probe **8** *b *to be immersed in the specimen **4** in the specimen container **5**, sucks the specimen **4**, moves up the sampling probe **8** *b*, moves the sampling probe **8** *b *to a position above the reaction container **9** *b*, and moves down the sampling probe **8** *b *to discharge the specimen **4** into the reaction container **9** *b*. The immunological analysis unit **2** performs immunological analysis of the specimen **4** divided and poured into the reaction container **9** *b. *

The biochemical analysis unit **1** and the immunological analysis unit **2** have a difference corresponding to a measurement sensitivity with respect to the specimen **4**, and a sensitivity of the immunological analysis unit **2** is higher than that of the biochemical analysis unit **1**.

The biochemical analysis unit **1** and the immunological analysis unit **2** respectively have cleaning mechanisms **10** *a *and **10** *b*. The respective cleaning mechanisms **10** *a *and **10** *b *clean the respective sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b*. **10** *a *or **10** *b*. Each cleaning mechanism **10** *a *or **10** *b *is constituted by providing a cleaning pump **12** to a cleaning tank **11**. The cleaning mechanism **10** *a *drives the cleaning pump **12** with respect to the sampling probe **8** *a *or **8** *b *inserted into the cleaning tank **11** to inject a cleaning liquid **13**, thereby cleaning the sampling probe **8** *a *or **8** *b. *

A timing of cleaning each sampling probe **8** *a *or **8** *b *is as follows. The sampling probe **8** *a *will be explained. The sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves the sampling probe **8** *a *to, e.g., a position above the specimen container **5** from an installation position of the cleaning mechanism **10** *a*, moves down the sampling probe **8** *a *to be immersed in the specimen **4** in the specimen container **5**, sucks the specimen **4**, moves up the sampling probe **8** *a*, moves the sampling probe **8** *a *to a position above the reaction container **9** *a*, and moves down the sampling probe **8** *a *to discharge the specimen **4** into the reaction container **9** *a. *

Then, the sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves the sampling arm **7** *a *to the installation position of the cleaning mechanism **10** *a*. Here, the cleaning mechanism **10** *a *cleans the sampling probe **8** *a. *

The sampling mechanism **6** *a *again moves the sampling arm **7** *a *to the position above the specimen container **5**, and immerses the sampling probe **8** *a *in the specimen **4** in the specimen container **5** to suck the specimen **4**.

The sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves the sampling probe **8** *a *from, e.g., the installation position of the cleaning mechanism **10** *a *to an installation position of the specimen container **5**, immerses the sampling probe **8** *a *in the specimen **4** in the specimen container **5**, sucks the specimen **4**, discharges the sucked specimen **4** into the reaction container **9** *a*, and cleans the sampling arm **7** *a *in the cleaning mechanism **10** *a*. This operation is determined as one cycle.

Each of the biochemical analysis unit **1** and the immunological analysis unit **2** sucks the specimen **4** in the specimen container **5** carried by the carriage unit **3** by using each sampling mechanism **6** *a *or **6** *b*, and discharges the specimen **4** into each reaction container **9** *a *or **9** *b*. The present invention is not restricted to this structure, and each of the biochemical analysis unit **1** and the immunological analysis unit **2** may have a structure shown in **5** are provided in a disc sampler **20**. This disc sampler **20** rotates in, e.g., a direction indicated by an arrow B. The plurality of reaction containers **9** *a *are provided in a reaction disc **21**. This reaction disc **21** rotates in, e.g., a direction indicated by an arrow C. The sampling mechanism **6** *a *is provided between the disc sampler **20** and the reaction disc **21**. The cleaning mechanism **10** *a *is provided in a movement path of the sampling probe **8** *a *between the disc sampler **20** and the reaction disc **21**.

One cycle operation of the sampling mechanism **6** *a *is as follows. The sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves the sampling probe **8** *a *from, e.g., an installation position of the cleaning mechanism **10** *a *to a position above the specimen container **5**, moves down the sampling probe **8** *a *to be immersed in the specimen **4** in the specimen container **5**, sucks the specimen **4**, moves up the sampling probe **8** *a*, rotates and moves the sampling probe **8** *a *to a position above the reaction container **9** *a*, and moves down the sampling probe **8** *a *to discharge the specimen **4** into the reaction container **9** *a. *

Then, the sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves the sampling arm **7** *a *to the installation position of the cleaning mechanism **10** *a*. Here, the cleaning mechanism **10** *a *cleans the sampling probe **8** *a. *

The sampling mechanism **6** *a *again moves the sampling arm **7** *a *to the position above the specimen container **5**, and immerses the sampling probe **8** *a *in the specimen **4** in the specimen container **5** to suck the specimen **4**.

A control system **30** will now be explained with reference to a block diagram of the control system for the autoanalyzer depicted in **30** is formed of a computer, and has a CPU, an RAM, an ROM, an input/output port, and others. In the control system **30**, the computer executes an autoanalysis program stored in the ROM. The control system **30** has a main control section **31** formed of the CPU. The main control section **31** controls operations of an autoanalysis section **33**, a sampling drive section **34**, a cleaning drive section **35**, and a probe cleaning adding section **36** as a probe cleaning change section in accordance with sampling information set in a sampling information setting section **32**.

Information of each specimen **4** sequentially carried by the carriage unit **3** is preset in the sampling information setting section **32**. Information of each specimen **4** is, e.g., a name of a patient from who the specimen **4** is taken, a type of the specimen **4**, e.g., a blood serum or urine, each inspection item of the specimen **4** in the biochemical analysis unit **1** and the immunological analysis unit **2**, the number of times of sampling for each of the various specimens **4** in the biochemical analysis unit **1** and the immunological analysis unit **2**, a sampling amount for one time, and others.

The autoanalysis section **33** operates the biochemical analysis unit **1** in accordance with each predetermined sampling period to perform biochemical analysis of the specimen **4** divided and poured into the reaction container **9** *a *and also carries out a regular analysis operation of operating the cleaning mechanism **9** *a *in the biochemical analysis unit **1**. The autoanalysis section **33** operates the immunological analysis unit **2** in accordance with each predetermined sampling period to effect immunological analysis of the specimen **4** divided and poured into the reaction container **9** *b. *

The autoanalysis section **33** operates the biochemical analysis unit **1** as follows. The autoanalysis section **33** issues each operation command to the sampling drive section **34** in accordance with each of the sampling periods T_{1 }to Tn to operate the sampling mechanism **6** *a*, thereby effecting each of sampling operations S_{1 }to Sn for the specimen **4**. The autoanalysis section **33** issues each operation command to the cleaning drive section **35** in accordance with each of the sampling periods T_{1 }to Tn after each of the sampling operations S_{1 }to Sn for each specimen **4**, thus performing each of cleaning operations W_{1 }to Wn for the sampling probe **8** *a. *

Each of the sampling periods T_{1 }to Tn corresponds to an operation in one cycle of the sampling mechanism **6** *a *mentioned above. Therefore, the respective sampling periods T_{1 }to Tn correspond to operations of the sampling mechanism **6** *a *in n cycles.

The sampling drive section **34** operates and controls each of the sampling mechanisms **6** *a *and **6** *b*. The sampling drive section **34** moves, e.g., the sampling arms **7** *a *and **7** *b *of the respective sampling mechanisms **6** *a *and **6** *b*. The sampling drive section **34** performs a sucking operation and a discharge operation of the respective sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b. *

The cleaning drive section **35** operates the cleaning pump **12** to inject the cleaning liquid **13** into the cleaning tank **11**.

As shown in **36** judges, e.g., whether the number of times of sampling of the specimen **4** by the sampling mechanism **6** *a *exceeds a preset number of times of sampling. Further, the probe cleaning adding section **36** also judges whether a sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** exceeds a preset sampling integration amount. When the number of times of sampling exceeds the set number of times of sampling or when the sampling integration amount exceeds the set sampling integration amount as a result of the judgment, the probe cleaning adding section **36** adds cleaning of the sampling probe **8** *a *before the next sampling of the specimen **4** besides regular cleaning of the sampling probe **8** *a*. The probe cleaning adding section **36** carries out cleaning, e.g., twice or more.

_{1 }to Wn are regular cleaning with respect to the sampling probe **8** *a*. When the probe cleaning adding section **36** determines that the number of times of sampling the specimen **4** by the sampling mechanism **6** *a *exceeds the set number of times of sampling in, e.g., the sampling period T_{2}, it performs additional cleaning W′_{2 }in the next sampling period T_{3}. At this time, the probe cleaning adding section **36** cancels execution of sampling the specimen **4** and performs the additional cleaning operation W_{2}′ alone for the sampling probe **8** *a. *

The number of times of sampling the specimen **4** is, e.g., a count value of the number of times of sampling after replacing the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b*. It is to be noted that the number of times of sampling the specimen **4** may be a count value of the number of times of sampling from, e.g., the sampling period T_{4 }following the sampling period Tn where the previous additional cleaning is effected, i.e., the sampling period T_{3 }where the additional cleaning operation W_{2}′ is performed as shown in

The sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** is, e.g., an integration value of an amount of sampling the specimen **4** after replacing the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b*. It is to be noted that the sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** may be an integration value of sampling amounts of the specimen **4** sampled from, e.g., the sampling period T_{4 }following the sampling period Tn where previous additional cleaning is effected, i.e., the sampling period T_{3 }where the additional cleaning operation W_{2}′ is performed as shown in

As shown in **36** obtains the total number of times of sampling including the number of times of sampling the next specimen **4** that is sampled by, e.g., the sampling mechanism **6** *a*, and judges whether the total number of times of sampling exceeds a preset number of times of sampling. Furthermore, the probe cleaning adding section **36** obtains a total sampling integration amount including a sampling integration amount of the next specimen **4** to be sampled, and judges whether the total sampling integration amount exceeds a preset sampling integration amount.

When the total number of times of sampling exceeds the set number of times of sampling or when the total sampling integration amount exceeds the set sampling integration amount as a result of the judgment, the probe cleaning adding section **36** adds cleaning for the sampling probe **8** *a *before the next sampling of the specimen **4** besides regular cleaning for the sampling probe **8** *a *like the above example.

For instance, as shown in **6** *a *is used to perform the sampling operation S_{2 }and the cleaning operation W_{2 }for the sampling probe **8** *a *in the sampling period T_{2}, the probe cleaning adding section **36** obtains the total number of times of sampling including the sampling operation S_{3 }in the next sampling period T_{3}, and judges whether the total number of times of sampling exceeds the set number of times of sampling. Moreover, as shown in **6** *a *is used to perform the sampling operation S_{2 }and the cleaning operation W_{2 }for the sampling probe **8** *a *in the sampling period T_{2}, the probe cleaning adding section **36** obtains a total sampling integration amount including a sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** in the next sampling period T_{3}, and judges whether the total sampling integration amount exceeds a set sampling integration amount.

When the total number of times of sampling exceeds the set number of times of sampling or when the total sampling integration amount exceeds the set sampling integration amount as a result of the judgment, the probe cleaning adding section **36** adds cleaning for the sampling probe **8** *a *before the next sampling of the specimen **4** besides regular cleaning for the sampling probe **8** *a *like the above example.

It is to be noted that, when the probe cleaning adding section **36** likewise determines with respect to the sampling mechanism **7** *b *that additional cleaning W_{2}′ for the sampling probe **8** *b *is performed in the sampling period T_{2 }following the sampling period T_{1 }after the sampling operation S_{1 }and the cleaning operation W_{1 }for the sampling probe **8** *b *are effected in the sampling period T_{1 }as shown in **36** carries out the additional cleaning operation W_{2}′ alone for the sampling probe **8** *b *without executing sampling of the specimen **4** in the next sampling period T_{3}.

Specifically, the probe cleaning adding section **36** has a sampling number count section **37**, a sampling amount integrating section **38**, and an additional cleaning executing section **39**.

The sampling number count section **37** counts, e.g., the number of times of sampling after replacing the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b*. When the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *are replaced, the sampling number count section **37** adds the number of times of sampling “1” to the number of times of sampling at the end of, e.g., the sampling period T_{1 }to obtain the total number of times of sampling including the number of times in the next sampling period T_{2}. It is to be noted that the sampling number count section **37** may start counting the number of times of each sampling operation with respect to the specimen **4** by the sampling probe **8** *a *or **8** *b *from, e.g., the sampling period T_{4 }following the sampling period T_{3 }where the additional cleaning operation W_{2}′ shown in

The sampling amount integrating section **38** sequentially integrates sampling amounts of the specimen **4** by the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *after, e.g., replacing the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *to obtain an integration amount of sampling of the specimen **4**. For example, the sampling amount integrating section **38** integrates a sampling amount in the next sampling period to a sampling integration amount after replacing the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *to obtain a total sampling integration amount including an amount in the next sampling period. As a sampling amount in the next sampling period T_{2}, information of a sampling amount set in the sampling information setting section **32** is used. It is to be noted that the sampling amount integrating section **38** may sequentially integrate sampling amounts of the specimen **4** by the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *from the sampling period T_{4 }following the sampling period T_{3 }where the additional cleaning operation W_{2}′ is performed as shown in **4**, for example.

The additional cleaning executing section **39** receives the number of times of sampling the specimen **4** obtained by the sampling number count section **37** and the sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** acquired by the sampling amount integrating section **38**. The additional cleaning executing section **39** judges whether the number of times of sampling of the specimen **4** exceeds the set number of times of sampling. Additionally, the additional cleaning executing section **39** judges whether the sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** exceeds the set sampling integration amount.

When the number of times of sampling exceeds the set number of times of sampling or when the sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** exceeds the set sampling integration amount as a result of the judgment, the additional cleaning executing section **39** performs additional cleaning for the sampling probe **8** *a*. When the number of times of sampling exceeds the set number of times of sampling and the sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** also exceeds the set sampling integration amount, the additional cleaning executing section **39** likewise performs additional cleaning for the sampling probe **8** *a. *

The additional cleaning executing section **39** judges whether the total number of times of sampling including the number of times of sampling the next specimen **4** to be sampled exceeds the set number of times of sampling. Further, the additional cleaning executing section **39** judges whether the total sampling integration amount including a sampling integration amount of the next specimen **4** to be sampled exceeds the set sampling integration amount.

When the total number of times of sampling exceeds the set number of times of sampling or when the total sampling integration amount exceeds the set sampling integration amount as a result of the judgment, the additional cleaning executing section **39** carries out additional cleaning for the sampling probe **8** *a*. When the total number of times of sampling exceeds the set number of times of sampling and the total sampling integration amount also exceeds the set sampling integration amount, the additional cleaning executing section **39** likewise performs additional cleaning for the sampling probe **8** *a. *

A cleaning operation in the apparatus having the above-described structure will now be explained with reference to a cleaning flowchart depicted in

The specimen **4**, e.g., a blood serum or urine taken from, e.g., each different patient is accommodated in each specimen container **5**. Each specimen container **5** is mounted on the carriage unit **3**. The carriage unit **3** sequentially carries each specimen container **5** from the biochemical analysis unit **1** to the immunological analysis unit **2**.

The main control section **31** operates and controls the autoanalysis section **33**. As a result, when the specimen container **5** reaches the biochemical analysis unit **1**, the autoanalysis section **33** issues each operation command to the sampling drive section **34** in accordance with each of the sampling periods T_{1 }to Tn as shown in **6** *a *performs each of the sampling operations S_{1 }to Sn in accordance with each of the sampling periods T_{1 }to Tn. At the same time, the cleaning mechanism **10** *a *carries out each of the cleaning operations W_{1 }to Wn for the sampling probe **8** *a *after each of the sampling operations S_{1 }to Sn in accordance with each of the sampling periods T_{1 }to Tn.

Divided pouring of each specimen **4** and the cleaning operation of the sampling probe **8** *a *in each of the sampling periods T_{1 }to Tn (one cycle) are as follows. The sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves the sampling probe **8** *a *to, e.g., a position above the specimen container **5** from an installation position of the cleaning mechanism **10** *a*. Then, the sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves down the sampling probe **8** *a *to be immersed in the specimen **4** in the specimen container **5**, and sucks the specimen **4**. Here, sampling of the specimen **4** by the sampling probe **8** *a *is carried out in accordance with a sampling amount set n the sampling information setting section **32**.

Subsequently, the sampling mechanism **6** *a *elevates the sampling probe **8** *a *to be moved to a position above the reaction container **9** *a*. Then, the sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves down the sampling probe **8** *a *and discharges the specimen **4** into the reaction container **9** *a *in the biochemical analysis unit **1**.

Subsequently, the sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves the sampling arm **7** *a *to an installation position of the cleaning mechanism **10** *a*. Here, the cleaning mechanism **10** *a *cleans the sampling probe **8** *a*. That is, the autoanalysis section **33** issues each operation command to the sampling drive section **34** every time each of the sampling operations S_{1 }to Sn ends. As a result, the sampling mechanism **6** *a *inserts the sampling ram **7** *a *into the cleaning tank **11**. Then, the autoanalysis section **33** issues an operation command to the cleaning drive section **35**. The cleaning pump **12** injects the cleaning liquid **13** into the cleaning tank **11**. As a result, each of the cleaning operations W_{1}, W_{2}, . . . , Wn for the sampling arm **8** *a *is carried out every time each of the sampling operations S_{1 }to Sn ends. When cleaning the sampling probe **8** *a *is finished, the sampling mechanism **6** *a *again moves the sampling arm **7** *a *to the position above the specimen container **5**.

The biochemical analysis unit **1** sequentially performs biochemical analysis with respect to each specimen **4** divided and poured into each reaction container.

In the biochemical analysis unit **1** and the immunological analysis unit **2**, when each of the sampling operations S_{1 }to Sn is performed, the sampling number count section **37** counts the number of times of sampling after, e.g., replacing the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b*. It is to be noted that the sampling number count section **37** counts the number of times of the respective sampling operations with respect to the specimen **4** by the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *from the sampling period T_{4 }following the sampling period T_{3 }where the additional cleaning operation W_{2}′ shown in

The sampling amount integrating section **38** sequentially integrates sampling amounts of the specimen **4** realized by the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *after, e.g., replacing the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *to obtain a sampling integration amount of the specimen **4**. It is to be noted that the sampling amount integrating section **38** sequentially integrates sampling amounts of the specimen **4** realized by the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *from the sampling period T_{4 }following the sampling period T_{3 }where the additional cleaning operation W_{2}′ shown in **4**, for example.

On the other hand, the main control section **31** operates the additional cleaning executing section **39** every time each of the sampling periods T_{1 }to Tn shown in **1** at a step #**1** (a sampling and regular cleaning period). The additional cleaning executing section **39** receives the number of times of sampling operations with respect to the specimen **4** carried out by the sampling probe **8** *a *from the sampling number count section **37** in accordance with each of the sampling periods T_{1 }to Tn.

For example, when the sampling period T_{2 }shown in _{3}, the additional cleaning executing section **39** receives the number of times of sampling until the end of the previous sampling period, i.e., the sampling period T_{2 }from the sampling number count section **37**. Furthermore, when the sampling period T_{2 }ends, the additional cleaning executing section **39** receives a sampling integration amount until the end of the sampling period T_{2 }from the sampling amount integrating section **38**.

Moreover, when the sampling period T_{2 }ends, the additional cleaning executing section **39** receives a total number of times of sampling obtained by adding the number of times of sampling in the next sampling period T_{3 }from the sampling number count section **37**. Additionally, when the sampling period T_{2 }ends, the additional cleaning executing section **39** receives a total sampling integration amount obtained by integrating sampling amounts in the next sampling period T_{3 }from the sampling number count section **37**.

Then, at a step #**2**, the additional cleaning executing section **39** judges whether the number of times of sampling of the specimen **4** until the end of the sampling period T_{2 }exceeds the set number of times of sampling. Further, the additional cleaning executing section **39** judges whether the sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** until the end of the sampling period T_{2 }exceeds the set sampling integration amount.

At the step #**2**, the additional cleaning executing section **39** judges whether the total number of times of sampling including the number of times of sampling in the next sampling period T_{3 }exceeds the set number of times of sampling when the sampling period T_{2 }ends. Furthermore, the additional cleaning executing section **39** judges whether the total sampling integration amount including the sampling integration amount in the next sampling period T_{3 }exceeds the set sampling integration amount when the sampling period T_{2 }ends.

As a result of the judgment, when the number of times of sampling of the specimen **4** does not exceed the set number of times of sampling or when the sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** does not exceed the set sampling integration amount, the main control section **31** advances to a step #**3** to issue a command for regular cleaning of the probe, i.e., with no additional cleaning due to the additional cleaning executing section **39**. As a result, as shown in _{3}, the sampling operation S_{3 }with respect to the specimen **4** and the regular cleaning operation W_{3 }for the sampling probe **8** *a *are effected as usual.

Moreover, as a result of the judgment, the total number of times of sampling including the number of times of sampling in the next sampling period T_{3 }does not exceed the set number of times of sampling. Alternatively, the total sampling integration amount including the sampling amount in the next sampling period T_{3 }does not exceed the set sampling integration amount. In this case, the main control section **31** advances to the step #**3** to issue a command for regular cleaning of the probe, i.e., with no additional cleaning due to the additional cleaning executing section **39**. As a result, as shown in _{3}, the sampling operation S_{3 }with respect to the specimen **4** and the regular cleaning operation W_{3 }for the sampling probe **8** *a *are carried out as usual. **1**-Wn when no additional cleaning (like W'**2** in period T**3** in **2** of **2** in T**3** of

On the other hand, when the sampling period T_{2 }ends and the number of times of sampling of the specimen **4** exceeds the set number of times of sampling the main control section **31** advances to step #**5** and allows the additional cleaning executing section **39** to execute additional cleaning after regular cleaning. This advancement to step #**5** allowing the additional cleaning executing section **39** to execute additional cleaning after regular cleaning also occurs when the sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** exceeds the set sampling integration amount. In this case, the main control section **31** also advances to step #**5** and allows the additional cleaning executing section **39** to execute additional cleaning after regular cleaning.

Likewise, when the total number of times of sampling including the number of times of the sampling operation S_{3 }in the next sampling period T_{3 }exceeds the set number of times of sampling the main control section **31** advances to step #**5** as noted above and allows the additional cleaning executing section **39** to execute the above-noted additional cleaning. As noted above, this advancement to step #**5** allowing the additional cleaning executing section **39** to execute additional cleaning after regular cleaning also occurs when the total sampling integration amount in the sampling period T_{3 }exceeds the set sampling integration amount. In this case, the main control section **31** also advances to step #**5** and allows the additional cleaning executing section **39** to execute additional cleaning after regular cleaning.

The additional cleaning executing section **39** adds cleaning of the sampling probe **8** *a *before the next sampling operation S_{3 }besides regular cleaning of the sampling probe **8** *a *to execute cleaning, e.g., twice or more. For example, the probe cleaning adding section **36** performs the sampling operation S_{2 }and the cleaning operation W_{2 }for the sampling probe **8** *a *in the sampling period T_{2 }with respect to the sampling mechanism **6** *a *as shown in _{2}′ alone for the sampling probe **8** *a *in the next sampling period T_{3 }without effecting the sampling operation S_{3 }with respect to the specimen **4**.

Subsequently, the main control section **31** returns to a normal state, and performs the sampling operation S_{3 }with respect to the specimen **4** and the cleaning operation W_{3 }for the sampling probe **8** *a *in the sampling period T_{4 }as shown in

In the sampling mechanism **7** *b *on the immunological analysis unit **2** side, likewise, when it is determined that the number of times of sampling of the specimen **4** exceeds the set number of times of sampling or that the sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** exceeds the set sampling integration amount, the main control section **31** advances to the step #**5** and allows the additional cleaning executing section **39** to execute additional cleaning.

Likewise, when it is determined that the number of times of sampling with respect to the next specimen **4** to be sampled exceeds the set number of times of sampling or that the total sampling integration amount including the sampling amount in the next sampling period exceeds the set sampling integration amount, the main control section **31** advances to the step #**5** and allows the additional cleaning executing section **39** to execute additional cleaning like the above example.

As explained above, according to the first embodiment, when the number of times of sampling of the specimen **4** exceeds the set number of times of sampling or the sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** exceeds the set sampling integration amount, or when the total number of times of sampling including the number of times of sampling with respect to the next specimen **4** to be sampled exceeds the set number of times of sampling or the total sampling integration amount including the sampling amount in the next sampling period exceeds the set sampling integration amount, the additional cleaning operation alone for the sampling probe **8** *a *or **8** *b *is carried out in the next sampling period without executing the sampling operation with respect to the specimen **4**.

As a result, the sampling probe **8** *a *or **8** *b *can be assuredly cleaned. An amount of contamination of the sampling probe **8** *a *or **8** *b *can be reduced as compared with that in conventional cleaning. Even if the number of times of sampling of the specimen **4** or the sampling integration amount is increased, performance requiring carry-over between the specimens **4** can be assured.

When the total number of times of sampling including sampling in the next sampling period exceeds the set number of times of sampling or the total sampling integration amount including the sampling amount in the next sampling period exceeds the set sampling integration amount, the additional cleaning operation is carried out. As a result, the sampling probe **8** *a *or **8** *b *can be cleaned before performance requiring carry-over between the specimens **4** cannot be assured due to contamination of the sampling probe **8** *a *or **8** *b*, thus securing the performance requiring carry-over between the specimens **4**.

Therefore, the biochemical analysis unit **1** and the immunological analysis unit having measurement sensitivity considerably higher than that of the biochemical analysis unit **1** can perform analysis of each specimen **4** with a high inspection accuracy.

Contamination of the sampling probe **8** *a *or **8** *b *is checked, e.g., once a week, once a month, or on a periodical base. The contamination check is carried out when a contamination degree of the sampling probe **8** *a *or **8** *b *is measured and a measurement results shows a high contamination level. According to this apparatus, since additional cleaning is carried out, performance required in carry-over between the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *can be assured for a long time. A burden of checking contamination of each of the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *can be alleviated.

Additional cleaning of each of the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *is performed based on an amount, an injection power, an injection time, and others of the cleaning liquid **13** which are the same as those in regular cleaning. The additional cleaning operation can be performed without changing settings of, e.g., an amount, an injection power, an injection time, and others of the cleaning liquid **13** in the cleaning mechanism **9**.

A second embodiment according to the present invention will now be explained. It is to be noted that an apparatus structure according to this embodiment is the same as that shown in

According to this embodiment, the same specimen **4** is divided and poured into a plurality of reaction containers **9** *a *from one specimen container **5**, for example. For instance, a sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves a sampling probe **8** *a *to, e.g., a position above the specimen container **5** from an installation position of a cleaning mechanism **10** *a*, moves down the sampling probe **8** *a *to be immersed in the specimen **4** in the specimen container **5**, sucks the specimen **4**, moves up the sampling probe **8** *a*, moves the sampling probe **8** *a *to a position above the reaction container **9** *a*, and moves down the sampling probe **8** *a *to discharge the specimen **4** into the reaction container **9** *a. *

Then, the sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves up a sampling arm **7** *a*, again moves the sampling arm **7** *a *to the position above the specimen container **5** that is the same as the above-described specimen container **5**, immerses the sampling probe **8** *a *in the specimen **4** in the specimen container **5**, sucks the specimen **4**, moves up the sampling probe **8** *a*, moves the sampling probe **8** *a *to, e.g., a position above a reaction container **9** *a *that is different from the above-explained reaction container **9** *a*, and moves down the sampling probe **8** *a *to discharge the specimen **4** into the reaction container **9** *a. *

The sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves the sampling probe **8** *a *to, e.g., an installation position of the specimen container **5** from the installation position of the cleaning mechanism **10** *a *to be immersed in the specimen **4** in the specimen container **5**, sucks the specimen **4**, and discharges the sucked specimen **4** into the reaction container **9** *a*. This operation is determined as one cycle, and this cycle is repeated more than once.

When the cycle is repeated for a preset number of times, the sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves the sampling arm **7** *a *to the installation position of the cleaning mechanism **10** *a*. Here, the cleaning mechanism **10** *a *cleans the sampling probe **8** *a. *

A probe cleaning change section **36** judges whether additional cleaning is carried out like the first embodiment. When it is determined that additional cleaning is performed as a result of the judgment, the probe cleaning change section **36** repeats the cycle for the preset number of times, then executes a regular cleaning state, and performs cleaning of the sampling probe **8** *a *alone without executing sampling of the specimen **4** in the next cycle.

A cleaning operation in the apparatus having the above-described structure will now be explained with reference to a cleaning flowchart of

When the specimen container **5** reaches a biochemical analysis unit **1**, an autoanalysis section **33** issues each operation command to a sampling drive section **34** in accordance with, e.g., each of sampling periods T_{1 }to Tm as shown in **6** *a *carries out each of sampling operations S_{1 }to Sm in accordance with each of the sampling periods T_{1 }to Tm. The respective sampling operations S_{1 }to Sm are as follows.

The sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves the sampling probe **8** *a *to, e.g., the position above the specimen container **5** from the installation position of the cleaning mechanism **10** *a*, and moves down the sampling probe **8** *a*. The sampling mechanism **6** *a *immerses the sampling probe **8** *a *in the specimen **4** in the specimen container **5**, and sucks the specimen **4**. The sampling mechanism **6** *a *elevates the sampling probe **8** *a*, and moves the sampling probe **8** *a *to the position above the reaction container **9** *a*. The sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves down the sampling probe **8** *a *to discharge the specimen **4** into the reaction container **9** *a*. Then, the sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves up the sampling arm **7** *a*, and again moves the sampling arm **7** *a *to the position above the specimen container **5** that is the same as the above-described specimen container **5**.

When the cycle is repeated for the preset number of times m, the sampling mechanism **6** *a *moves the sampling arm **7** *a *to the installation position of the cleaning mechanism **10** *a*. Here, the cleaning mechanism **10** *a *performs a cleaning operation W_{1 }with respect to the sampling probe **8** *a. *

Thereafter, the sampling mechanism **6** *a *repeats sampling the specimen **4**.

At a step #**2**, an additional cleaning executing section **39** judges whether the number of times of sampling with respect to the same specimen **4** until end of the sampling period Tm exceeds a set number of times of sampling. Further, the additional cleaning executing section **39** judges whether a sampling integration amount of the same specimen **4** until end of the sampling period T_{2 }exceeds a set sampling integration amount.

At the step #**2**, the additional cleaning executing section **39** judges whether the total number of times of sampling including the number of times of sampling in the next sampling period T_{1 }exceeds the set number of times of sampling when, e.g., the sampling period Tm ends. Furthermore, the additional cleaning executing section **39** judges whether a total sampling integration amount including a sampling integration amount in the next sampling period T_{1 }exceeds the set sampling integration amount when the sampling period Tm ends.

As a result of the judgment, the number of times of sampling of the specimen **4** exceeds the set number of times of sampling. Alternatively, the sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** exceeds the set sampling integration amount. In this case, a main control section **31** advances to step #**3**, and issues a command of performing regular cleaning (as at W_{1 }in period Tm of **39**. Consequently, as shown in _{1}′ for the sampling probe **8** *a *is performed after regular cleaning W_{1}. In contrast, if it is determined in step #**2** that the preset value of the number of times of sampling or the weighted sampling amount (sampling integration amount) is not exceeded, no additional cleaning is performed after the regular cleaning is completed.

In a sampling mechanism **7** *b *on an immunological analysis unit **2** side, likewise, when it is determined that the number of times of sampling of the specimen **4** exceeds a set number of times of sampling or that a sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** exceeds a set sampling integration amount, the main control section **31** advances to a step #**5** and allows the additional cleaning executing section **39** to execute additional cleaning like the above example. Likewise, when it is determined that the number of times of sampling with respect to the next specimen **4** to be sampled exceeds the set number of times of sampling or that a total sampling integration amount including a sampling amount in the next sampling period exceeds the set sampling integration amount, the main control section **31** advances to the step #**5** and allows the additional cleaning executing section **39** to execute additional cleaning.

As explained above, according to the second embodiment, even if the same specimen **4** is divided and poured into, e.g., the plurality of reaction containers **9** *a *from the single specimen container **5**, the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *can be assuredly cleaned like the first embodiment. An amount of contamination of each sampling probe **8** *a *or **8** *b *can be reduced as compared with conventional cleaning. Even if the number of times of sampling or the sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** is increased, performance requiring carry-over between the specimens **4** can be assured.

A third embodiment according to the present invention will now explained. An apparatus structure according to this embodiment is the same as that shown in

According to this embodiment, a sampling amount of a specimen **4** for each inspection item is weighted, that is it is subject to weighing. For example, and as more fully explained below, a preset contamination amount can be set at a value (e.g., “10” as noted below) and when the sampling amount is at or above this set value it is multiplied by a first weighting factor (e.g., “2” as noted below). In contrast, when the sampling amount is less than this value, it is multiplied by a second weighting factor (e.g., “1” as noted below). Thus weighting is performed to obtain a weighted sampling amount. As shown in **4** accommodated in a specimen container **5** is divided and poured into a plurality of reaction containers **9** *a*. A divided pouring amount (a sampling amount) to each reaction container **9** *a *is, e.g., “10”, “7”, “5” or “8”.

A sampling amount integrating section **38** weights a sampling amount that increases adhesion of contamination to a sampling probe **8** *a*. The sampling amount integrating section **38** has a preset contamination amount, and judges whether a sampling amount for each reaction container **9** *a *exceeds the set contamination amount for that container. When the sampling amount for a particular reaction container **9** *a *exceeds the set contamination amount for that particular container **9** *a *as a result of the judgment, the sampling amount integrating section **38** weights the sampling amount for that particular container **9** *a *reaction container **9** *a*, and uses the weighted sampling amount to obtain an integration amount of sampling of the specimen **4**.

For example, the set contamination amount is set to, e.g., “10”. A weighting value is set to, e.g., “multiplying by 2” when the set contamination amount “10” is exceeded. The weighting value is set to, e.g., “multiplying by 1” when the set contamination amount is not greater than “10”. When obtaining a sampling integration amount with respect to each reaction container **9** *a *shown in **38** multiplies the sampling amount “10” by “2”, and multiplies each sampling amount “7”, “5”, or “8” by “1”. Therefore, the sampling amount integrating section **38** calculates 10×2+7×1+5×1+8×1 to obtain the sampling integration amount.

An additional cleaning executing section **39** receives the sampling integration amount from the sampling amount integrating section **38**. The additional cleaning executing section **39** judges whether the sampling integration amount exceeds a preset sampling integration amount, e.g., whether the sampling integration amount exceeds a preset sampling integration amount “80”. When the sampling integration amount exceeds the set sampling integration amount, the additional cleaning executing section **39** executes additional cleaning.

A cleaning operation in the apparatus having the above-described structure will now be explained.

For example, the sampling probe **8** *a *divides and pours the specimen **4** accommodated in the specimen container **5** into the plurality of reaction containers **9** *a*. Each sampling amount with respect to each reaction container **9** *a *is, e.g., “10”, “7”, “5”, or “8”.

The sampling amount integrating section **38** judges whether each sampling amount “10”, “7”, “5”, or “8” with respect to each reaction container **9** *a *exceeds a set contamination amount “10”. As a result of the judgment, since the sampling amount “10” with respect to the reaction container **9** *a *exceeds the set contamination amount, the sampling amount integrating section **38** multiplies the sampling amount “10” with respect to the reaction container **9** *a *by “2” to perform weighting. The sampling amount integrating section **38** multiplies each sampling amount “7”, “5”, or “8” with respect to each reaction container **9** *a *by “1” to perform weighting. The sampling amount integrating section **38** calculates 10×2+7×1+5×1+8×1 to obtain a sampling integration amount “40”.

The additional cleaning executing section **39** receives the sampling integration amount “40” from the sampling amount integrating section **38**. The additional cleaning executing section **39** judges whether the sampling integration amount “40” exceeds a preset sampling integration amount, e.g., a preset sampling integration amount “80”. When the sampling integration amount exceeds the set sampling integration amount, the additional cleaning executing section **39** executes additional cleaning.

As explained above, according to the third embodiment, the sampling amount with respect to the specimen **4** is weighted. For example, a sampling amount that increases an amount of adhesion of contamination to the sampling probe **8** *a *is subjected to weighting using a large value, e.g., weighting of multiplying by “2”, thereby obtaining a sampling integration amount. As a result, as compared with an example where a sampling integration amount is simply obtained, additional cleaning of the sampling probe **8** *a *can be performed on an earlier stage. It is possible to securely assure performance required in carry-over between the specimens **4**.

It is to be noted that the present invention is not restricted to each of the foregoing embodiments, and a probe cleaning adding section **36** may perform additional cleaning for the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *based on the following probe cleaning method.

When the number of times of sampling of the specimen **4** is to exceed a set number of times of sampling, a probe cleaning adding section **7** may add cleaning of the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *before the next sampling of the specimen **4** besides regular cleaning of the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b. *

When a sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** is to exceed a set sampling integration amount, the probe cleaning adding section **7** may add cleaning of the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *before the next sampling of the specimen **4** besides regular cleaning of the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b. *

When the total number of times of sampling including the number of times of sampling with respect to the next specimen **4** to be sampled exceeds the set number of times of sampling, the probe cleaning adding section **7** may add cleaning of the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *before the next sampling of the specimen **4**.

When a total sampling integration amount including a sampling integration amount of the next specimen **4** to be sampled exceeds the set sampling integration amount, the probe cleaning adding section **7** may add cleaning of the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *before the next sampling of the specimen **4**.

When at least two of the four cases where the number of times of sampling of the specimen **4** is to exceed the set number of times of sampling, where the sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** is to exceed the set sampling integration amount, where the total number of times of sampling including the number of times of sampling with respect to the next specimen **4** to be sampled exceeds the set number of times of sampling, and where the total sampling integration amount including the sampling integration amount of the next specimen **4** to be sampled exceeds the set sampling integration amount are satisfied, the probe cleaning adding section **7** may add cleaning of the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *before the next sampling of the specimen **4**.

The probe cleaning adding section **7** may increase the number of times of additional cleaning for the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b*. For example, as shown in _{2}′ alone may be performed in a sampling period T_{4 }after the additional cleaning operation W_{2}′ in a sampling period T_{3}. As a result, additional cleaning is continuously performed for two cycles in the respective sampling periods T_{3 }and T_{4}.

The probe cleaning adding section **7** can move a timing of additional cleaning for the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b *in, e.g., the sampling period T_{3}. For example, as shown in _{2}′ may be performed in the middle of the sampling period T_{3}. The additional cleaning operation W_{2}′ may be carried out in the first half of the sampling period T_{3}.

The probe cleaning adding section **7** may prolong a time required for additional cleaning of the sampling probes **8** *a *and **8** *b*. For example, as shown in _{2}′ may be set to an entire time in the sampling period T_{3}. Moreover, a time of the additional cleaning operation W_{2}′ may be set to an entire time of the respective sampling periods T_{3 }and T_{4 }that are continuous for two cycles.

Even when a sampling integration amount of the specimen **4** used for one of a plurality of inspection items exceeds a preset amount, the probe cleaning adding section **7** may perform the additional cleaning operation.

Additional advantages and modifications will readily occur to those skilled in the art. Therefore, the invention in its broader aspects is not limited to the specific details and representative embodiments shown and described herein. Accordingly, various modifications may be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the general inventive concept as defined by the appended claims and their equivalents.

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Classifications

U.S. Classification | 73/864.25 |

International Classification | G01N1/00 |

Cooperative Classification | G01N35/00594, G01N35/1004 |

European Classification | G01N35/00G1, G01N35/10B |

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